Although it has never been confirmed that James Baldwin was a homosexual it was widely rumored that Giovannis Room is a book based loosely on his life. Many critics have said that Baldwin hid behind this book in order to come out without taking the heat from an outraged society. James Baldwins life was never easy and neither are the lives of his characters. Like his characters James Baldwin was constantly faced with obstacles to overcome and he was aided in his efforts by his writing.
Giovannis Room is a book about a mans love of another man and the fear, doubt, and problems that result from this forbidden love. David, the main character starts his life in Brooklyn. He grew up without a mother, and his relationship with his father was not the best. He had a friend named Joey who he liked but he did not yet understand his emotions and refused to let them surface. David started to distance himself from his family and decided to go to Paris.
While in Paris David met a man by the name of Jacques, he was an older man who David teased in order to test the boundaries of his sexuality. David had him buy him drinks, loan him money, and enjoyed the all access attention. David never goes any further then flirting with Jacques. We than learn David has a girlfriend named Hella and he has proposed to her before she went off the Spain.
Although David is sure of himself he always doubts his feeling which is what leads him into trouble. Even though he is engaged to be married and thinks he is in love with his fiance, Hella. When David meets Giovanni, a man who is sure of who he is and how he feels, there attraction is so intense it consumes him. David feels compelled to explore the part of himself which has been unexplored for a long time.
David is a homosexual who is trying to deny his true feelings from himself in the hope that it will just go away. But as he soon discovers that just because he ignores his feelings does not mean they are not there. The more time he spends with Giovanni the more he fights his inner self which is desperately trying to get out.
David is fighting a losing battle with himself because he is fighting something that he wants, but because of the stigmas placed on the individual by society, David feels that to love a man is wrong, therefore he is somehow dirty and struggles against it to escape public ridicule. Giovanni on the other hand has no problem with who his is because he is always true to himself and David is not. The real problems occur when Hella, Davids fiance, returns to Paris and David tries to mold himself into them man that he will never be. David knows that it is a losing battle but he fights it any way.
David is very weak in the sense that he does not want to be homosexual because he knows what troubles there will be if he is, but he also does not want to be heterosexual because he is not comfortable in that role. Instead of being truthful with the man he loves, he lies to him and leads Giovanni to believe that there will be a future for them and he does the same with Hella the woman who is making herself love him to keep from being alone. David and Giovanni had an awkward moment in a bookstore and they went back to Giovannis apartment. Thats when David told him his plan to leave him. Giovanni ended up crying and yelling at David. Giovanni told David about his past situations that caused him to be extremely depressed. It was clear to David that Giovanni and his relationship was over.
David decided to try to make his life with Hella work, although he still finds himself checking up on Giovanni. Giovannis heart was broken and he ends up letting Jacques seduce him and take care of him for a while. Then after they ended their relationship, Giovanni started to hang out with the poor street boys who he used to not like at all. Giovanni tried to get a job as a bar tender working for Guillaume. Guillaume told Giovanni to come back after hours to discuss the job and Giovanni wound up killing him.
Davids life also takes a turn for the worse. When he finds out that Giovanni is scheduled to be executed he is riddled with guilt. His own relationship with Hella is now in question. David finds himself not even being attracted to her anymore. David decides to go out looking for men on the down-low. It was not long until Hella finds out about the affairs and in the end he loses Hella to the truth and loses the only person he could ever truly love to lies and circumstances.
If David had dealt with his inner conflict in time he could have spared himself a lot of pain and Giovanni could have been spared his life because without David, Giovanni did not really have a reason to live. David knew that Giovanni loved him and that love is what sustained him, yet, he still lied to him. Even though David could not help lying to the people he cared about, he still had a responsibility to that person to always be honest. In order to be honest with anyone else he first had to be honest with himself which is something David could not do. As a result Hella was left with the sense that because David was gay she was somehow lacking as a woman. Giovanni believed that David never loved him and that everything that they shared was a lie, which in the end destroyed him.
David never really considered anyones feelings but his own and by the time he stopped to consider someone elses feelings it was too late to fix the damage he had done. He may never be able to overcome his issues with his sexuality. David is now alone in the house that he shared with Hella. He is overwhelmed with guilt, and planning on leaving and going back to Paris and then possible America.
Susanna Rawson wrote a book called Charlotte Temple. This story has similar message which is why its fitting as a secondary source. Charlotte Temple is a innocent British schoolgirl who take the bad advice of her teacher. Charlotte is sought out by Lt. John Montraville while on a military leave before going to America to help in a war effort. John convinces her to elope to America. By doing this she knew that she would be hurting her mother and father by leaving the country. She wrote a long letter letting them know how much she loved them, and left for the America.
Even though she was worried that he would abandon her once they arrived in New York, she was in love with him and trusted his word. Once they arrived in America John set Charlotte up in a cottage outside of town. She always waited impatiently for John to come and visit her every day. His visits gradually decreased until he stopped coming at all. Charlotte later found that John had destroyed her letter to her parents. Now she was left heartbroken, alone and Pregnant.
Another interesting book I came across that is a secondary source for James Baldwins book is Sloppy Firsts. This book was written by Megan McCafferty. This story recounts the high school journey of a girl named Jessica Darling.
Jessica has to deal with many different emotional issues. Her brother overdosed on drugs, her best friend moved away, and the boy she likes at school wants nothing to do with her, her mother is completely occupied with her sisters wedding, and her father is mean and insensitive to her feelings.
The third secondary resource I choose is the Tropic of Cancer written by Henry Miller. This book has been described as notorious for its candid sexuality. This book was originally banned in the United States. The Supreme Court then declared the book non-obscene and now its regarded as an important masterpiece of the 20th century. Henry Millers book paved the way for writers like James Baldwin to be able to express their sexuality in published stories.
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